Friday, 25 October 2013

The Dark Side of a Promise - The beginning.....


                                                                                         September 21 2004 6:24am


Drake Alexander stands on the teak deck of his summer home contemplating the rise of the dawning sun over Cocagne Bay, the memory of broken young bodies crisp after three long years, images that haunt him still. Standing tall against the railing, his fine features are in silhouette to the waking day. An autumn breeze caresses the taut muscles of his sleek torso. Beneath a forceful brow, eyes of the deepest brown stare out at the changing elements. Drake has just finished his predawn swim, a vitalizing ritual that keeps him hardy.

The wafting air is scented with the brine of the sea water that laps gently against the pebbled shore. The horizon burns like hot embers as the sun toasts the scattered clouds a fiery orange. Amidst the cry of frenzied gulls a lone heron silently glides down on open wings, settling lightly into the water. The tide is going out. Soon there will be a hedge of heron dining. Drake is always amazed at this intelligent and adaptive bird that swallows its prey live and whole. He knows humans with similar dispositions.

Not far from his home a working wharf juts into the water, its curved rocky spine protecting the fishermen and their vessels. A Millennium Marine fishing craft slowly moves away from the pier, taking its owner to another day’s wages.
Soft ripples from the bow of the boat distort the watery images. The calmness of the bay is inverse to the angst Drake is feeling. He waits for word from his long time ally and most trusted friend, Williston Payne. Several days ago Williston had alerted Drake that there had been a sighting. Drake waits patiently, sensing his friend was rattled.                    


Drake knows from his long association with Williston that his information can always be trusted. Information is intangible wealth. Williston’s worldwide business interests are legion; his prestigious law firms specializing in international, corporate and tax law are the most influential. With offices spread around the world, his access to information is phenomenal. In their adolescence, Drake had learned from Williston that information is a commodity much like oil or diamonds and that it has to be verified, classified, assimilated, bargained for and traded. Although time makes a lot of material insignificant, the useful intelligence is treasured and filed safely away for future use. Williston stores many secrets in safety deposit boxes in countries that are as disinterested in the contents as the steel that houses them.

Drake is knocked from his reverie by the ringing of his phone – a silly birdsong that his sister Glory, an ornithologist had emailed him. He has assigned it to Williston’s cell phone number. He reaches for his cell, which is always nearby.
“Good morning, buddy,” Drake said, confidant that Williston is on the other end.
“Good morning to you, too,” Williston responds gruffly, then after a troubled pause gets right to the point of his call. “I received notice from Uday last Sunday that he needed to see me urgently, in person. He came to my office earlier today...”

Drake waits for Williston to continue, never having known him to be without words, and then says, “And?”
“Sorry, Drake, but Uday’s visit provoked so many miserable memories that I’m still shaken.”

“Well, he has been known to stir things up. Isn’t that one of the reasons you enjoy associating with him?” asks Drake, knowing that the bond that ties Williston and Uday Saad together is much deeper than their business dealings.
The death of Williston’s sister Amber and one of her dearest friends, Sakeema Saad - Uday’s eldest daughter - three years ago, has cemented the two men in grief and revenge. The pain of absence lingers in their memories but the greatest pain is that that the man responsible – the sadistic and ruthless mercenary Bartholomeo Rizzato - is still at large.

“Uday thinks he knows where Rizzato might be.” Williston explained, “And we know that where Rizzato is, something bad will happen. He’s a demon willing to carry out anyone else’s rancour. Someone with enough money has hired him for his tasteless talents.”
“A demon?”
“Well, that’s another satisfying and distasteful word I can use to describe the bastard. Regardless, we need to find out if he is indeed there” said Williston.
“Where are you getting your info from Williston? Rizzato is not stupid and like other vermin, knows how to hide and stay alive.”

“You remember Uday’s nephew, Rafan Bashara, who runs his Bangladeshi offices in Dhaka?”
“Yes I do,” replied Drake. “He’s the Harvard graduate, a real whiz kid. I met him at his aunt’s wedding, when Uday’s youngest sister got married last spring.”

Williston explains, “On Saturday Rafan sent word to Uday that he overheard Rizzato’s name in a conversation at a bar. He then befriended the stranger, who was drunkenly boasting of his acquaintance with Rizzato and the work they were doing south of the city. Rafan tried to get him to divulge more information, but the worker was too far gone to make any sense. Rafan secured him at his apartment with hopes of getting more details from him in the morning, but the man slipped away sometime late in the night.”
Again Williston hesitates, sad memories and a bad feeling make him pause before continuing.
“The next day, Rafan found the man’s mutilated body in the trunk of his car. It was evident that he had been tortured. Obviously Rafan wasn’t the only one to overhear the boastful ramblings and they must have been followed. That’s when Rafan notified Uday.”

“Yeah... this has Rizzato’s stink on it. Where is Rafan now and what is he saying?” 
“We don’t know. He hasn’t been heard from since Saturday, the day he found the body and spoke with Uday. Thinking this incident might lead us to Rizzato, Uday’s men left the body where it will eventually be found and disposed of the car so as not to draw any unnecessary attention for the present.  We need your help Drake.”

Drake was about to respond when Williston adds, “There’s more. The body had a crude Z cut into the back shoulder just like Amber’s. We both know what that means.”

The implication of the three year old clue leaves Drake speechless. Images of Amber in happier times fill some seconds for both men until Williston says, “I’ll wrap things up here in Geneva today, keep Uday with me. We’ll try to locate Rafan and then fly out tomorrow morning on the company jet. I’ve got some more digging to do, so meet us on the Drifter’s Dream. We’ll be anchored off the north east coast of Antigua, out past Jumby Bay Island. If you’re flying down, I’ll have the beacon on – you’ll find us.”
With a voice of bitter malice, Williston charges Drake, “Find this man for us, Drake, and put him away... or kill him this time!”

“I will, Williston, I promise!”


The Dark Side of a Promise will be available as an eBook soon. Watch for further notices.

Please feel free to leave a comment.


Next week you can read an amusing story about three grown men acting like boys.....Part 1 of "Pioneers in a Hurry"
 

 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Guest writer, Connie Cook. Five Minutes and counting....



Connie Cook, lives in Port Credit, ON, has been writing short stories for the last three years and is currently working on the rewrite of her first novel. Her stories have been published on CommuterLit.com and by Pacific Magazines in Australia. When she’s not working at her REAL job, or playing servant to her two black cats, she can frequently be found with a blank page opened on the computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike.
 

Five Minutes…and counting
Hello, my name is Denise. How can I help you?”  As the words rolled from her mouth, they sounded canned, spoken too fast, spewed out without thinking.  She cringed.  It was a hazard of the job.  Fifteen years on the crisis phone line had taken their toll. She’d pretty much heard everything, and frequently struggled to keep a fresh perspective.  It was call after call, but that was the job she’d signed up for.
Mostly the calls weren’t critical. They ran the gamut of, how do I know if my boyfriend is cheating on me, to OMG, I’m having a third date with this guy. If I have sex with him, will he think I’m too easy?”  It reminded her, that one person’s crisis, was akin to another caller’s idea of a really good day. The true crisis calls were few and far between.
Her last caller was a repeater, phoned every day, a lonely lady in her seventies, and mostly she just wanted to talk.  Denise had responded with consoling comments, and clichés thrown in, almost like an afterthought. Somewhere along the line, she needed to make them sound more genuine, made a mental note to check with one of her colleagues in terms of how they managed it. Her performance appraisal was due next month and she could use it as a self-reflective tool. It would sound good to her boss.
 A grating noise on the line jarred her back to reality. It sounded like metal, ratcheting on metal. It was irritating, like fingernails on a chalkboard. What the hell was that all about? She adjusted the volume on her headset, checked to make sure her mute button was off, and tried again. “Hello, hello, are you there? My name is Denise, and I’m here to help you.” She even slowed her voice down and managed to inject a tone of empathy this time, pleased with herself for having done so.
At first the silence was welcoming.  There was only five minutes left in her shift, and she was already planning the rest of her evening with her husband and kids, made a mental note to pick up milk on the way home.
An explosion blasted through her headset. The sound was deafening, terrifying, like that of a gunshot. Pain pierced her eardrums. Denise had never heard a pistol being fired before, but she’d watched enough movies to know what they sounded like. This one echoed. Its’ reverberations’ jolted her, continued to ring in her head.
“Hello, hello, are you there?”  She struggled to keep her voice calm. Crap, why me?  In a heartbeat, she knew this call would be a life changer. Adrenalin flooded through her. Every skill she’d ever learned would be pulled into action. This caller needed her, needed her badly.
“Five minutes, you have five minutes. The next shot is going into my head.”
The voice was male, sounded middle aged, low pitched, a tad slurred.  She pictured him, with a gun aimed at his head, feeling there was no way out, but to kill himself.  Slurry voice, maybe some alcohol or drugs involved. It was his desperation that reached through the phone line, grabbed at her gut. She could work with this. After all, he had called, hadn’t he? It meant he hadn’t made up his mind.
“I’m glad you called, and I’m here to listen. My name is Denise. What’s yours?” As the words came out of her mouth, she realized for the first time in a long time, she really meant them.
 
“Does it matter? I’m not even sure why I fucking called in the first place? It’s not like it’s going to make any difference.”
 
Denise felt the angst in his voice. This was her opportunity to make a connection.  She kept her voice calm. “It matters to me, and so do you matter to me. I’d just like to know what to call you.” She closed her eyes and waited. This was the time to shut up and listen.
It seemed an hour had passed, but when she checked the call time on her computer screen, it had only been thirty seconds, then thankfully a response.
 
“It’s Michael, most people call me Mike.”
 
She hit the mute button to silence her breath of relief. All it took was a quick click of the keypad, and she was on again.

 “Is it okay if I call you Mike?”

“Right now, you can call me whatever the fuck you want. I wanted that first bullet to go through my head, but I didn’t want to be alone when I did it. Shit, if I was a brave guy, I’d just go through with it. Why can’t I?”
Denise heard his voice, shouting, screaming into the phone. In her head she was thinking, he’s still ambivalent. I need to find out where he is, get help to him.  As she searched for the phone number on the bottom toolbar of her computer, it came up as unlisted. The call couldn’t be traced.

“Let me try to help. Give me a chance. Are you okay with that?” Good line, she thought. Give him some control, some options. After all, if he pulled the trigger, it wouldn’t be her fault, would it?

“Ya right, as if you can do anything to help me.”

“Mike, you gave me five minutes.” Denise purposefully kept her voice low. Make him listen. It all came down to skills and communication. It all came down to her.

“Mike, can you tell me where you’re calling from? Maybe give me your phone number?”

 “Not on your life, the clock is ticking.”

It was time, to call a spade a spade, time to get it into the open, say the word out loud.  Denise knew from experience, that saying the word let the caller know she understood, acknowledged his distress.
 “Okay Mike, I know you’re suicidal.”

 “Damn right. I’ve screwed up so bad this time.”

 “It sounds like you think there is no way out right now.”

 At least he wasn’t shouting anymore, and Denise welcomed the waver in his voice. It sounded like he may have been this way before. It was time to press on.
“Is anyone there with you?” She needed to know, if there were other persons at risk. Again she reminded herself to keep her voice calm. Her questions would be direct, but her responses needed to be nonjudgmental.

“No, I’m by myself. I can’t hurt anybody else again. I don’t want to hurt them again.”
His voice had shifted, now sounded weary, tired, as if his mind was made up. But again, Denise picked up on the ambivalence.

“You don’t want to hurt who?”

“My wife, my kids, I’ve totally screwed up. It was the gambling, out of control, and now I have nothing.”

Denise seized the opportunity. “You gave me five minutes, and now I need five minutes from you.  “Help me understand what happened. What has led you to this place?”

“It’s not easy. I don’t know if I can do it,”

“I’m trying to understand. But before we go any further, I need to make sure the gun is on the floor, away from you.”

The sound of a metal object hit the floor.

“Good, now kick it away from you.” There was a pause, then a skittering noise of metal across a hard surface.  This was good. It meant he was listening.

“Thanks Mike, for doing that. It’s important for me to know you’re safe for now.  Talk to me.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

Denise heard the tremor in his voice. “Let me help. It kinda sounds like you’ve been down this path before, and it sounds like you have family that supported you in the past. Tell me about them.”

“I’ve been good, tried hard. Five years clean,” he sobbed. “But, today, it all came down to a couple of drinks, a chance to win some money on a long shot, and a chance to take my wife and kids on vacation. I owe them so much. Now I’ve lost everything. Damn, damn, damn, now I can’t even pull the trigger.”

Denise adjusted her mindset. She’d made the connection.  The drinks explained his slurry voice. Now it was time to tease out the positive from the negative statements he’d given her. This was the hardest part, but the one that would count most.

“Did your family help you before? Did they understand?”

“Oh, God yes!  The kids were too young to know. But it’s my wife. I can’t put her through this again. I can’t believe it’s happening again. I’ve let her down.”

“But you did it. She helped you before.”

Silence.

She heard the scraping of chair legs on a tiled floor.  Denise searched through her head, frantic, pictured him picking up the gun. What could she say to stop him? There was no clichéd response in the world that would solve this.  She reached deep inside and the words tumbled forth.

 “Mike, can you find hope, anywhere in your heart, can you find a reason to live? Not just for your family, but for you?”

“Lady, you have no idea. The gun is close, and right now it’s back in my hand, pointed at my head.”

Silence.

“Mike you’ve helped me.” Denise injected a quiver into her voice. “I feel like you’ve made me a better listener. It sounds like you have people who love you. Those people need you.  Please, please let me get help for you.”

Silence.

 Bang, the sound of a gun.

Bang, another shot.

Bang, a shot ricocheting. 

Denise heard the volley of gunfire. At least if he was still firing, he hadn’t put the gun to his head.  How many bullets does a gun hold? Did it matter?  All it took was one.

More silence. She hesitated before speaking.  She could hear his breathing through her headset. It sounded ragged, raspy and fast, then the sound of metal clanging on the floor. “I know you’re there. I pray you’re there. Talk to me.”

“I don’t have any bullets left.”

“You kept yourself safe. I can’t begin to understand how hard that must have been for you, but thank you.  Thank you for doing that.”

Denise welcomed his next words.

 “Help, I need help. I know I need help,” he cried.

“Mike, stay on the line with me. I can transfer you directly through to 911.  I’d like to give them a bit of background about your situation. You okay with that?”

“Yes, yes, just do it.”

“Mike, you’ll be on hold for just a minute. And thank you, thank you for helping me.”

 Denise hit the conference button and pressed 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?” The dispatcher’s voice was calm, controlled.

“My name is Denise. I’m transferring a male caller from the crisis line. He’s suicidal and has a gun. I’ve been on the line with him for the last 15 minutes, heard some shots. He assures me he wants help, gun is on the floor, and he says he has no more bullets, agreeable to the call transfer.  No other persons with him.  I’ll stay on the line until I’m sure you have the demos.”

 She pressed the connect button. “Mike I have emergency services on the line. They’ll help you from here.”

 It was a smooth handoff to the dispatcher. Denise waited on the line until the phone number and address, were received, then she tore her headset off and tossed it on the desk.


It was the aftermath that caught her. Shaking hands as she packed her stuff into the tote bag she carried to work, and gun shots echoing in her head. This call would be replayed in her head for a long time to come.  She needed to compose herself for the thirty minute drive, but at least she was going home.



Thank you Connie for sharing one of your stories. You can find more of Connie's stories at www.commuterlit.com



Next week Marc Poirier, a popular Acadian singer/songwriter, who performs as Joseph Edgar, will be interviewed by 4Q, don't miss it